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Union-Represented Nurses ‘Demand’ St. Elizabeth’s Hospital ‘Bring Back’ Laid Off Nurses & Recommit To Caring For The Utica Community

Published Wednesday, May 6, 2020
by NYSNA News
Union-Represented Nurses ‘Demand’ St. Elizabeth’s Hospital ‘Bring Back’ Laid Off Nurses & Recommit To Caring For The Utica Community

(UTICA, NEW YORK) - As a surge of COVID-19 patients is expected in the Mohawk Valley in late May to early June, 77 Union-represented Nurses have been handed layoff notices at St Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Utica.

About 79 Nurses could face layoffs now that Members of the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA) have rejected a request from the Mohawk Valley Health System to accept furloughs.

The Nurses would be offered their jobs back as the hospital becomes busier, officials said.

Nurses say Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) is shortsighted in laying off the Nurses and runs a serious risk of not be adequately prepared to meet the needs of patients. 

They say that the hospital should engage in training to enhance the critical care most needed to battle the virus.

“As a Nurse and family member of a patient at MVHS, ‘I’m concerned about how Nurse staffing cuts are putting our patients at risk,’” Nurse Lily Werenczak said. “We ‘all worked so hard over the last year to define our core values as a health care organization and these cuts are a complete abandonment of our mission to provide high-quality care to our community.’”

According to data from the New York State Department of Health, Oneida County averaged nearly 100 new cases per week in April, and there is no sign of a downward trend in positive COVID cases.

MVHS has failed to consider alternative measures that give them payroll savings and preserve the Nurse Workforce by keeping everyone employed, Union Officials said.

Unfortunately, MVHS's focus on short-term cost savings has made them unable to see the devastating effects of their decisions on Utica's health and economy, all during the worst global pandemic in 100 years.

In addition to Nurse layoffs, MVHS has furloughed approximately 20% of their workforce, forcing them onto the state’s already overwhelmed unemployment system.

At the same time, hospital administrators who are not responsible for patient care, have not been furloughed.

MVHS announced slight pay and bonus cuts for hospital executives, which may be temporary.

However, Temporary Travel Nurses who are hired through a staffing agency are still begin employed at St. Elizabeth’s, NYSNA Officials said.

“When I heard about the layoffs, I thought per diems would not be getting shifts, since we make more than the average Nurse and only get called in after the full and part time Nurses have been scheduled,” Nurse Tosha Elseth said. “Suddenly I was ‘getting called in every day, and I wondered how they could be laying off Nurses when per diems and travelers are still being called in?’  ‘I don’t want to take the place of someone who really should be there full-time.’”

The day after layoff notices were sent, MVHS posted four new job openings for Registered Nurses on their website.

These new openings are in addition to several nursing positions that have not been filled in recent months, and which have led to an increase in reports of unsafe staffing at St. Elizabeth’s, Union Officials said.

To Directly Access This Labor News Report, Go To: www.nysna.org/blog/2020/05/05/nurses-rally-against-mvhs-staffing-cuts-during-covid-crisis#.XrLqP8hKiiM

And For More, Read: Coronavirus: Nurses At Utica Hospital Could Face Layoffs At www.uticaod.com/news/20200428/coronavirus-nurses-at-utica-hospital-could-face-layoffs

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